Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Catheter

UPDATE: Book signing confirmed!!
When: Sunday, March 29, 2009 2-4 p.m.
Where: Peninsula Building Materials Showroom
2490 Charleston Road, Mountain View


The following is an excerpt from Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cancer Book: 101 Stories of Courage, Support & Love. This passage was written by Yoga Bear advisor Jasan Zimmerman. The book is for sale on Amazon.


“Have you urinated yet?”

“Nope. I’ve been trying, but it hasn’t happened yet.”

“If you don’t go by 6 am, we’re going to have to put a catheter in.”

This unpleasant exchange took place shortly after my thyroidectomy, the treatment for my thyroid cancer. I was fifteen, not quite a child, but not quite a man yet either.

After the surgery, I vaguely remember being moved from recovery to the hospital room. My eyelids were still heavy from the anesthesia, feeling like cinder blocks were holding them closed. I could only open my eyes for a split second, enough to take in the surroundings and get a quick snapshot of what was happening.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Race for the Cure in Pasadena

Yoga Bear is Proud to be an Official Sponsor in the Susan G. Komen National Race for the Cure: March 15, 2009 @ Rose Bowl, Pasadena. Please come out and show your love and support! We'll have a booth set-up and we'll be giving away complimentary yoga memberships to post-cancer survivors, as well as yoga passes to those interested in joining us in our mission to:


Yoga Bear seeks to help post-cancer survivors, BUT even more importantly we seek to educate the community about how living a yogic lifestyle can be crucial to your health!

For more info about this event, contact

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Yoga in Children's Hospitals

Physical therapists at Children's Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha have found a different way to put pilates and yoga techniques to work.

Nate Hathaway doesn't remember a time he didn't do physical therapy. The 10-year-old had a stroke in utero. Now, physical therapists at Children's lead Nate through a series of pilates and yoga style movements. It's a way for Nate to regain strength after a stress fracture.

Nate Hathaway said "You have to balance yourself on a ball a lot and maybe you'll get a face plant or two."

The key is steady and controlled movements using bolsters, balls, even frisbees. Physical therapist Penny Warren can modify moves for each child.

Penny Warren said "It's challenging because we've zeroed in on their very weakness, their core weakness and from there they can build outward."

Therapy sessions once a week are supplemented by daily work at home. Nate's parents are encouraged after just a few months.

Nate's Mom Charity Hathaway said "He can't ride a normal two wheel bike because he falls. He doesn't have the balance ability to do it so this has made a huge difference in balance ability. We've noticed he's balancing better than he ever has."

Nate added "I walk really good now my parents say and some of my teachers have noticed."

In other words, all the hard work is paying off.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Yoga: Even for the Disabled

From a room filled with cymbidiums given regularly from fellow students, this warm huggable lady from Philadelphia cheerfully, puts her one foot, her only foot, actually half a foot, down and tells me: "My mission is to be as independent as possible. I am stimulated and more flexible in my body and mind, aware, new energy and having more fun out of life and feeling my heartbeat."

What creates this for Betsy? She creates it because as a friend and being a driven, Yoga therapist and a recovered disabled woman I teach Yoga therapy/Viniyoga: ancient wisdom of Classical Yoga, Hatha Yoga and Ayurveda, to facilitate the continuum of self-healing.

I tell her it is Yoga, but so much more. Yoga is all. It is everything, it is a process to unite and is about freedom. Physical, energetic, psycho-emotional, and spiritual healing means the freedom to be simply who we truly are.

Freedom is the word that sums it up.

My joy is having her receive from me. A friend of many years since she took care of me over 20 years ago as a master massage therapist after I nearly died in an auto accident and had to learn to walk again. I decided then to put journalism aside and research body mind therapy and became a yoga therapist.

As Deepak Chopra writes, "Receiving is as necessary as giving. To consciously receive is an expression of the dignity of giving." And Betsy knows how to receive.

A 20-minute class in her chair will include:

1. Breathing smoothly and completely -- the priority.

2. As Betsy puts it: "Stretching me by pulling my arms with your hands and massaging my neck makes me feel so good. The touching is about friendliness, I need that. I require caring and loving. A new flexibility is happening- one of my mind as well."

Betsy is an avid committed student of spiritual psychology and her classes at the University of Santa Monica. (USM is a block from her assisted living home.)

3. Strengthening -- Utilizing a non-electric wheel chair forces the smiling very active white haired darling of center work her cardio and tones her upper body. "I make use of all. All the adapted, assisted poses bring me to life. I feel alive. I have more energy, not stagnant. I feel my heart beat."

Senses are awoken I notice more and more. Appreciating a dark chocolate bar, ok for diabetics, I bring her, then plugging in a Hawaiian floral scent diffuser sweetly transforms the shared room and the cds encourage Betsy to sway to the best rhythms when she:

4. Twisting her spine

5. Rolling her shoulders

6. Turning her neck

7. Pressing down and does pelvic tilts to wake sleeping muscles

8. Bending forward, she leans and reaches out to hold on to a table and breathe fully and deeply then let your headrest down. By me pushing and pulling, the spine gets release and energized I tell her.

9. Now I assist her to circulating her upper body -- the spine. She holds the wheel chair arms turning in one direction a minute and then reversing. This is a noted sequence to bring circulation to the sacrum plus letting energy release and move up the spine.

Twenty minutes is up and the alert, energized Betsy is ready to do her homework, or watch her favorite tennis on TV, and roll herself out to help some of the residents acclimatize. She is the president of the patient's council using her experience of many years as a counselor to serve others. The mother of two children with disabilities, now deceased, Betsy worked for years on programs for the retarded.

"Yoga assists me when I must slip and slide into my wheel chair, toilet, and bed. Using gravity, heights and breathing," said Betsy.

This post was originally published in the Santa Monica Mirror.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Free Class Series for Survivors in Virginia

Wednesday’s from 12:30-1:30pm
January 28 – February 18

Little River Yoga is pleased to offer FREE weekly classes for cancer
patients and survivors. Our first session of classes will be offered
over 4 weeks, but we hope that they will be successful enough to be
offered on an ongoing basis.

These classes will offer inspiration, and will include healing yoga
movements, restoratives, balance work, breath work and guided
There is no charge for these classes, but please register to attend, either by telephone or email.

Classes will be taught by Suzanne Leitner-Wise & Bev Brown

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Cost of Cancer

This documentary from the Kaiser Family Foundation explores the financial consequences faced by three people--all privately insured--after being diagnosed with cancer.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Survivorship & Belly Dancing

When we heard about Yoga Bear participant Sylvia Grech's passion for belly-dancing, we had to learn more! Sylvia, who was diagnosed with liposarcoma in 2008, has had extensive abdominal surgery and 35 treatments of radiation. Today she's cancer free, but still recovering from the physical and emotional aspects of survivorship. In addition to her dancing, she is taking yoga classes through Yoga Bear. As today's guest blogger, she's sharing her story about belly-dancing.

I was bored one day and a friend of mine had suggested that I take up a dance class. I had never taken a formal dance class before, so she recommended an old time dance studio which offered classes ranging from Flamenco to Martial Arts to Irish Folk dancing. Among the varied list was Belly Dancing (or as it is known, Danse Oriental) and I said to myself “well, that’s a different one…it will be good exercise”. So I took my first beginner class 8 ½ years ago and it opened up a whole new part of my life.

I will never forget my first class… I was wearing a sarong and barefoot. The class was difficult. So difficult! And the more I went to class, the more difficult it became. I loved it. So when I realized this wasn’t going to be a passing thing, I bought some dance clothes and began taking private lessons to work on technique. My once a week beginner’s class went to a twice a week intermediate class and then to a four times a week advanced class and private lessons. I dance Egyptian style belly dance, which is different from Turkish, Lebanese and Moroccan styles.

Then I began to perform. Oh the joy, exhilaration and agony of it! Being naturally shy, this was another challenge for me. I hated performing and it felt like the ultimate torture but I continued to do so because I wanted to get over the fear (and, let’s face it, I wanted to join in with my dance friends).

My first show was in a small theatre on 42nd Street off Broadway. Over time, I began to travel to other cities for my teacher’s workshops and performing at their gala shows. I’ve performed on stage in theaters in Buffalo and Montreal and at a couple of dinner/show restaurants in New York. I also performed for my friends’ family wedding, birthday and anniversary parties. One of my most memorable performances was at my friend’s 50th birthday party which was in the island of Malta. My friend had rented a yacht for his party and we docked at the smallest island and I danced at the sea port under the stars!

Besides learning technique, choreography, facial expression and stage personality, I had to learn how to deal with the unexpected when performing. I’ve had music stop in the middle of my performance, waiters passing within a foot of me with dishes of spaghetti piled high, getting glue in my hair from fly traps hanging from the changing room ceiling, almost slipping on stage, music so low I couldn’t hear it… the list goes on. Fortunately , knock on wood, I’ve never had a costume malfunction!

For me, going to class is an addiction. I just can’t get enough. My teacher is not only an excellent instructor but he is also a unique and creative choreographer. Each class brings something new and wonderful. It’s amazing to me to hear an average piece of music and see how it morphs into something so beautifully complete with the choreography.

The challenge of learning this art form is good for the mind, feels great on the body and is uplifting for the soul. It’s a never-ending journey…always more to learn and experience. Being in class forces me to forget about everything… at that moment, it’s all about the music and the dance.

Improving Sleep in Metastatic Breast Cancer

From Oncology Nursing News:

Predicting whether women with metastatic breast cancer will suffer from insomnia may be possible through simple measurements of breathing and heart rates and cortisol levels, say researchers from the University of Rochester Wilmot Cancer Center.

More importantly, it may be possible to reduce insomnia in this patient population through fairly simple means. “It's reasonable to suggest that simple breathing exercises may help more than we realize with insomnia,” said lead author Oxana Palesh, PhD, in a press release announcing the findings. She suggested that yoga, meditation, or other techniques that regulate deep diaphragmatic breathing may help thwart insomnia and sleep disruptions, which are 2 to 3 times more common in cancer compared to general population.

This study of 99 women (J Clin Sleep Med. 2008; 4:441-449) confirmed a relationship between frequent awakenings and abnormal cortisol rhythms. Cortisol is the steroid hormone that regulates blood pressure; this current work echoes earlier research linking insomnia to activation of the stress-response system, which leads to increased cortisol levels. By measuring participant's heart rates during a stress task, researchers found that lowered heart rate variability was associated with efficiency of sleep.

In healthy people, cortisol levels peak early in the morning and level out by the end of the day. However, in one-third to two-thirds of women with metastatic breast cancer, circadian rhythms are disrupted and diurnal cortisol slopes are either flattened, have multiple peaks, or are elevated at the end of the day. Participants in this study had on average 15 wake episodes in the night, lasting for about a total of 71 minutes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Yoga Bear Program at Maimonides

Yoga Bear NYC has partnered with Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn to bring a weekly yoga class to cancer patients. Erin Bakersmith from Yoga Works Studio has volunteered her time for the class. YB NYC Director Michelle Robbins says, "Cancer patients at the Maimonides expressed a need for an activity that allows them to mentally escape from all of the negativity and stress that comes with cancer. Our service seems to be a perfect fit."

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Prisoners Embrace Yoga

Have you heard of prisons implementing yoga to help stress and anger management. The BBC did a wonderful short doc on one program, the Art of Living, in a prison in South Africa.